Should scientists assume responsibility for proposing a national agenda for science? It is not easy to take a stand against priority-setting and the kind of rational, systematic analysis the notion implies. But recent proposals that call on the scientific community to "get its act together" and unite behind a single set of research priorities raise serious doubts about its wisdom.

At the same time, with scientists and policymakers increasingly concerned about how to find funds for the growing list of "megaprojects" begun by the Reagan administration, the business of setting priorities is becoming increasingly urgent. For example, presidential science adviser D. Allan Bromley has indicated that his office intends to establish a priority-setting process, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is reported to be looking at research in a more comprehensive fashion than it ever has before.

Behind the various proposals that have been under discussion in science...

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